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How Many Israeli Defense Ministers Does it Take to Remove an Outpost?

Latest developments in the Migron Migraine…

Migron is one of the most notorious of the so-called “unauthorized outposts” that have sprung up in the West Bank over the last decade or more.  The current outpost count stands at 105 according to the Israeli NGO Peace Now.

As former head of the State Prosecution Criminal Department Talia Sasson explained in the Sasson Report commissioned by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, that outposts have substituted new settlements since the Oslo process began.  While establishing a new settlement sounds very anti-peace, outposts somehow seems less of a poke in the eye, plus they have the advantage of governmental deniability since they are unauthorized.  Sure the government provides water and electricity links, security, IDF, and often even road access—but no formal approval—outposts are not official policy, heaven forbid. 

Migron itself is an unauthorized outpost that was established in early 2002 very near the Kochav Ya’akov settlement.  It is occupied by 42 families, or about 150 people in total, and is comprised of 56 caravans and 2 permanent structures.  Like with other outposts, Migron received help from the government:  according to the Sasson report, the Ministry of Housing and Construction shelled out over 4,000,000 NIS for construction related to the outpost’s infrastructure.

Official Israeli policy is to remove the outposts, Migron included.  According to Israel’s own laws the outposts are illegal—from a domestic rule of law perspective they should not remain.  Israel has also made a series of international and bilateral commitments to the US to dismantle the outposts.  

According to the 2003 Roadmap, it was stipulated that Israel “immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001”, and “consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI [Government of Israel] freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).”  In an exchange of letters with President Bush in April 2004, Dov Weissglass wrote on behalf of PM Ariel Sharon that

We view the achievement of a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as our central focus and are committed to realizing this objective. Progress toward this goal must be anchored exclusively in the Roadmap and we will oppose any other plan.  In this regard, we are fully aware of the responsibilities facing the State of Israel. These include limitations on the growth of settlements; removal of unauthorized outposts…

These commitments were re-affirmed at the November 2007 Annapolis Conference and many times since.  The U.S. has a new envoy, General William Fraser, to oversee the implementation of these commitments.

Direct operational responsibility for outpost dismantling falls under the mandate of the Israeli Defense Minister.  There have been 3 Israeli Defense Ministers—Shaul Mofaz, Amir Peretz, and Ehud Barak—since the Roadmap commitment.  Migron has outlasted all of them.  Here is the current Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s plan as announced last night on Israel TV news:  Barak has apparently reached a deal with the leadership of the settlers to move Migron, lock stock and yeshivas, 5 kilometers to the West where it will be nicely nestled still inside the West Bank, close to the existing settlement of Neve Ya’akov.  Net effect on the settler population:  zero.  Plus, new Palestinian land would be taken up by the relocation of Migron. 

And the American response?  Well it’s likely to be a repeat of VP Dick Cheney’s reaction when asked by ABC news reporter Martha Raddatz what he thought of the fact that 2/3 of the American public opposed continuing the war in Iraq: To quote the veep, “So?”

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Daniel Levy

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 25, 2008 7:58 PM.

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